Using safety of workers and communities as their main argument, two top railroad unions and the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department strongly argued for mandatory two-person crews on all freight trains.
TTD and unions carried their campaign to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) hearing on crews on Dec. 14, a day after rail workers’ rallied nationwide on another top issue, with its own safety component, paid sick and family leave. Congress nixed that when it imposed a new contract on the nation’s 115,000 freight rail workers.
The Surface Transportation Board’s regulatory to-do list, train crew sizes and merger conditions related to Canadian Pacific’s acquisition of Kansas City Southern are just some of the big issues that rail industry stakeholders will be watching in 2023.
One of the biggest issues that the U.S. freight industry will tackle is how to improve rail service. Closely related to that are the potential actions that STB could take to address that issue.
“After being dormant for much of the last decade, the board has several large cases before it, including private railcar demurrage, reciprocal switching, [as well as] the carriers’ use of embargoes to meter traffic and essentially skirt the common carrier obligation,” said Todd Tranausky, vice president of rail and intermodal for consulting firm FTR Transportation Intelligence. “This board really likes the idea of fairness and that will lead them to be active.”
Railroads were catapulted into national headlines in the fall as labor negotiations came down to the wire, raising the prospect of the first strike or lockout in three decades.
After nearly three years of fruitless negotiations between a dozen labor unions and the railroads, the Biden Administration in July appointed a Presidential Emergency Board to make contract recommendations.
The PEB in August recommended a 24% wage increase, along with $5,000 in service recognition bonus payments, over the five-year life of the contract retroactive to Jan. 1, 2020. That was below the 28% increase the unions sought, but above the railroads’ 16% proposed wage hike. The board also recommended that railroads and unions sort out working conditions issues, including scheduling and sick time, on the local level.
AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department President Greg Regan joined the America’s Work Force Union Podcast and discussed testimony he provided the Federal Railroad Administration about the need to maintain two-person crews to run trains.
The Federal Railroad Administration is looking to set a baseline of people needed to run a train, Regan said. Currently, two-person crews are used, but the railroad industry has argued that one-person crews are sufficient, he explained. Regan talked about the danger of a one-person crew and why maintaining two-person crews is in the interest of public safety.
Yes, the recent federally-suppressed rail strike would have created economic chaos and cost Americans billions of dollars daily. But, have we neglected to identify the culprits that created reasons for the strike?
The forced settlement cheats many rail employees of needed sick leave and fails to adequately address bare-bones train staffing that created unsafe conditions.
My long-time interest in railroading dates back to the 1950s in my home county, where the steam era lasted longer than most places. And, that interest prompted me to build two HO-scale model railroads — the first in Pennsylvania and, later, a larger 15-by-19-foot model layout in my Montana home.
My interest in railroading continues today as I read reports on railroad conditions in the United States. For instance, the headline on one opinion story cited the United States as “a First World nation with a Third World rail system.”
The last few weeks in the United States have been quite chaotic when it comes to the future of rail workers. Since institutions have not seemed to find effective solutions for a collective agreement, rail freight companies in the country are taking it upon themselves to try and help their employees. Rail operator CSX Corp is changing its attendance policy to accommodate railway workers, who were recently denied paid sick leave by the government.
Railroad workers and unions are ramping up pressure on the US Congress and Joe Biden to address poor working conditions in the wake of the recent move to block a strike when Congress voted to impose a contract agreement.
Workers and labor activists in America have criticized that action for undermining the collective bargaining process in the US and workers’ right to strike.
Railroads and unions gave conflicting views during a hearing by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) on a proposed rulemaking that would require freight trains generally to have at least two crew members in the locomotive cab. The agency is gathering public testimony through next week.
Here are some key issues that the railroads and unions addressed at the Wednesday hearing:
Mandating set crew size blocks innovative work configurations, say railroads
The railroads and the unions just ended a multiyear bargaining round for a new labor agreement, and one of the issues raised was the need to address work-life balance.
Railroad workers who are fed up with demanding work schedules and disappointed in the contract they received aired their frustrations this week at rallies across the country and in a leadership vote at one of their biggest unions.
Workers gathered in Washington D.C. and nearly a dozen other locations across the country Tuesday to emphasize their quality of life concerns and fight for paid sick leave after Congress intervened in the stalled contract talks earlier this month and imposed a deal on four unions that had rejected it. And thousands of engineers voted to oust their long-time union president although that result won’t be final until next week.
WASHINGTON – Rail workers, union leaders, and Members of Congress rallied in front of the U.S. Capitol yesterday in support of freight rail industry reforms, including paid sick leave for workers, a two-person crew staffing minimum on trains, and an end to the Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR) business model, which has pushed the supply chain […]